Before I jump into my interview with the delightful Helen, I have a couple of worthwhile diversions. Firstly, do not forget about the upcoming #RewindKAL…as if you could! Join us for all the chat and bants in the Ravelry group. I also had a bit of a roadtrip this week and a little yarny gathering with Countess Ablaze, Lori from the USA and Larissa Travelknitter. Good times. I also provide you with a small geography lesson focussing on the differences between the Victorian North and New-Town Milton Keynes, as I see them.
This episode of the Shinybees Podcast is delighted to be sponsored by one of my favourite shops in the world: Fluph.
Dundee’s premier yarnery, situated on Blackness Road, has a treasure trove of delights, from commercial yarns to hand dyed lovelies from the likes of Wool Kitchen. Home of an exclusive range of hand dyed yarns – Rusty Ferret – Fluph also has an online store to indulge yourself in all things yarny. You can find all things Fluph at fluph.co.uk.
Helen was born and raised in South Africa. Her family made the journey to the UK regularly when she was a child and as an adult she has made her way slowly from Hampshire to the Highlands of Scotland. She is now based in beautiful Assynt and has no plans to move as it suits her creativity and need for independence perfectly.
Despite having inherited the gift of knitting from her mother, and learning how to knit socks with four needles in school, Helen’s adult career has been predominantly spent in admin based roles. In 2008 Helen worked in the personnel department of a pharmaceutical company and made herself redundant. Genius. A dyeing lesson from the Border Tart got her hooked on dyeing and, having found her creative niche, led to the opening of her business.
A typical day at Ripplescrafts will include an early start to get the yarn soaking. Whilst that is ongoing Helen then deals with any orders that have been received and hands them over to her husband, Stevan, to take to the Post Office. It is then back to the yarn and the fun part, before a return to admin duties and possibly a bit of a stocktake. Of course we cannot overlook having eggs to collect form the hens and the dogs to be walked. There can be a degree of flexibility allowed when it is a glorious long summers day in the Highlands and it is this lack of rigidity in the indie life that appeals so much to Helen.
One of my favourite parts of the interview is where Helen details her creative process. Ripplescrafts is only 10 minutes in one direction from a loch and 10 minutes in the other from the coastal cliffs. This means that they are surrounded by colour in all seasons and this is the source of inspiration for Helen. She takes lots of photos and searches through them until she chooses one and then attempts to transfer the colours from the photo on to the yarn. At this point she uses her artistic licence to garner the essence of the colour rather than an exact replica. Although there is not always instant satisfaction Helen loves conveying the landscape in her yarn and is thrilled when people can relate to that. She feels that even if she doesn’t fall in love with a colour immediately (or ever) it will be perfect for someone and that someone will find it eventually.
As I always say ‘no journey is a smooth one’ but Helen is reluctant to label any of her experiences as failures, there are just some less successful parts. Loving her positivity here! Her low point was attending a trade show very early in her yarn career when she knew she wasn’t ready but caved into external pressure. There was poor attendance and low sales but Helen insists that it was valuable as it taught her to have the courage of her convictions and to only do things that feel right to her. As my friends over at Grange Hill used to say, ‘Just say no’ people.
Helen tries to savour all small things as successes but can single out a couple of especially high points. Her first was being accepted as a stall holder for Woolfest in 2009. It may have been a tiny stall but it was a massive step. She still loves going to shows and seeing people wearing her yarn, it is a thrill that never ends. Her second is somewhat more recent and is the collaboration with her husband for the Assynt Yarn Club. Stevan writes some cultural elements, perhaps geology or archaeology of the local area, and then this gets sent out with a postcard photo of the area and a hank of yarn that matches.
Helen has a solid tip/warning for anyone considering indie dyeing. Be aware that you must have a real passion for what you do. The work can be quite physical and is also demanding in other ways, particularly background admin and networking, but with passion you will do it all happily.
Helen has some interesting projects emerging now and in the pipeline. These include Karie Westermann and her ‘Frances Herself’ shawl, ‘Dunedin’ a collaboration with Lucy Hague for the EYF magazine, and her base is being used by Asa Tricosa in her upcoming book.
You can find Helen at the following shows this year:
Highland Wool Festival in Dingwall – 21 May
Woolfest – June
Loch Ness Knitting Festival – Sept/Oct
Helen has very kindly said she will facilitate the giving away of a hank of her Stormy Seas in the Quinag base (100% BFL) to one of our listeners. Head over to the Ravelry group and tell me which of Ripplescrafts colourways is your favourite to be in with the chance of winning.
That’s all from me this week. As always, thank you for listening. Feedback is always appreciated, and you can email me or message me via Ravelry or social media. If you enjoyed listening today, please consider leaving an iTunes review, to help others find the podcast too. Happy crafting!